How to Manage Stress Around the Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be, well, happy. But for most of us, jam-packed schedules, tight gift budgets and the pressure to get it all “right” can you leave you feeling anything but.

The good news is there are steps you can take today to ensure stress doesn’t get the best of you this holiday season.

Make a Must-Do List (and Check it Twice)

Write down everything you want to accomplish over the course of the season, from social events, to family gatherings, to tasks like decorating and shopping. Then find ways to trim excess stuff from your schedule so you aren’t overloaded. Can you say yes to just the two or three most important holiday parties, instead of every single one? Or pay a college student home on break to spend an afternoon stringing up your outdoor lights?

Mark Your Dates

Once you have a better sense of all your holiday activities, give each one a dedicated slot on your calendar. Knowing you already have time set aside for gift-wrapping, cookie-baking or caroling will help you feel more organized. If scheduling everything feels too rigid, pencil in some free days for last minute obligations.

Prioritize Self-Care

It’s easy to let healthy habits slide this time of year. But it’s all about balance — if you know you’ll be eating a lot of sweets at a holiday event, choose lighter, healthier meal options the rest of the day. If you have too many after-work obligations one week, try moving your evening workout to the morning, or during your lunch break. And a little non-negotiable rest and relaxation can go a long way toward helping you stay merry and bright all season long. Do something restorative once a week, even if it’s just curling up on the couch with a good book for an hour.

Set Aside Your Differences

You’ll never agree with Uncle Bob on politics, and your mother-in-law will always remind you that the ham you worked so hard to make tastes like it’s missing something. Accept that you won’t always see eye to eye with some of your family members, and decide ahead of time that you won’t engage in arguments. In fact, practice what you might say in response to something negative in order to keep the peace. You’ll enjoy yourself more when you let the little things go.

Lend a Hand

Spend an afternoon volunteering at a shelter or soup kitchen, or give gifts to a family in need. No matter how frazzled you might feel, there are plenty of people out there who are dealing with something much worse. Helping them can make a meaningful difference — and put your own problems into perspective.

Don’t worry so much about having a “picture-perfect” holiday. Be realistic about what you can commit to this season, and stay flexible during such a busy time. Things won’t always go according to plan, but if you take good care of yourself, you’ll be able to care for the people and the traditions that mean the most to you.

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